As series three of Garrow’s Law comes to a finish on BBC1 – following a tearful episode three in which Alun Armstrong’s solicitor John Southouse died – along comes the boxset featuring the complete series one and two.
These fact-based stories from the late 18th-century records of the Old Bailey, exploring the courtroom exploits of maverick barrister William Garrow, have been consistently entertaining and fascinating, throwing a light on a crude and barbaric era of British justice.
Garrow – forgotten hero
The murder of slaves, homosexuality, infanticide, treason – the early dramas have shown viewers the chilling treatment dished out at the Bailey, which basically acted as a clearing house for the rich and powerful against the poor and disenfranchised.
Along came pioneering barrister Garrow, a neglected hero from the archives until series co-creator Tony Marchant spotted his potential for this series. Here was a man who, like Atticus Finch, Horace Rumpole or Perry Mason, stood up for the underdog. The difference being that in Garrow’s day, the system was heavily tilted against defence counsel.
Andrew Buchan’s co-stars
Garrow, played by Andrew Buchan with the quiet fortitude once the speciality of James Stewart or Gregory Peck, defended the poor and desperate that other barristers turned their noses up at. Moreover, he established the right of defence lawyers to argue the case for defendants and cross-examine prosecution witnesses. Until then, whatever flimsy cross-examination was done came from the judge or jurors.
Buchan’s co-stars have fleshed out the series wonderfully, with Lyndsey Marshal sympathetic as Lady Sarah Hill, Rupert Graves horrid as her husband Sir Arthur, Aidan McArdle slippery as the prosecutor, and Michael Culkin as Judge Buller having a face straight out of a Hogarth print.
Garrow’s Law documentary
The boxset introduces Garrow as an idealistic young barrister, has the barrister fighting a pistol duel with Sylvester and sees him in the dock himself, accused by Sir Arthur of ‘criminal conversation’ (or sex, in modern parlance) with Lady Sarah, all interwoven with intriguing courtroom battles.
Special features include Behind the Scenes of Garrow’s Law and an exclusive documentary, William Garrow: Fact and Fiction.
• ‘Garrow’s Law’ boxset supplied by BBCShop.com